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Red tape ties up beach concessionaire’s plans

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Keith Simmons in front of his concession, Beach Daze, at Warwick Long Bay (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

When Keith Simmons took over the concession and beach rental stand at Warwick Long Bay from his friend Mark Tankard in the spring of 2019, he had a grand vision.

Part of this vision included providing beachgoers with increased rental options and light refreshments, putting up private screens for changing and improving beach access for those with physical challenges.

Ever since he took it over, however, Mr Simmons said he had been met with obstacle after obstacle from the Department of Environmental Health, which has prevented him from doing the vast majority of what he had planned for the beach, including selling hot dogs.

The problems began for Mr Simmons soon after reached out to an environmental health officer to see what would be required to fulfil his aims.

He said he was told that in order to sell hot dogs and other refreshments on the beach, he would need a trailer. At the time, the concession stand consisted of only a beach hut.

“I was the only one who had to purchase a trailer,” Mr Simmons said. “BK Grill at the top of John Smith’s Bay had a wooden structure, the vendors at the bottom of John Smith’s Bay built a wooden structure [and they were both allowed to sell hot food].

“The vendor at Admiralty House built a wooden structure, but they had to wait almost a year for planning permission to take it out of their yard and put it at Admirality House.”

Mr Simmons purchased a 5ft-by-8ft trailer in September 2019. It stayed at his home for 18 months as he was expecting another environmental officer to inspect it before it could be taken down to the beach.

In 2020 he was told by another environmental health officer that electricity would be required for the trailer before he received his licence to sell hot dogs. He said that the officer stopped him from using a generator.

Despite being told that a trailer and electricity were required to operate the concession, Mr Simmons said he was still given permission to sell hot dogs from the site in August 2020. He did not sell hot dogs before that point.

“[The senior officer] told me that if anyone had an issue with me selling hot dogs [from my hut] at that time, they could go directly through him,” he said.

In February 2021, however, according to Mr Simmons, the same environmental officer who allowed him to sell hot dogs from his concession reversed that decision.

“When I asked the senior officer why [it appears that] the rules are different for different concessions, he told me to mind my own business and to worry about myself,” he said.

An inspection of the trailer was finally conducted on June 2, 2021, the day after Mr Simmons brought it down to the beach.

Despite the inspection being conducted in June, Mr Simmons’ licence did not arrive in the mail until mid-September 2021. However, it was a licence for prepackaged foods, which did not give him the permission to sell hot dogs.

Beach Daze (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Mr Simmons said: “It has been an ongoing process of trying to operate this trailer. Environmental health are very unjust in their processes in how they let other [similar] businesses operate.

“There are people operating [similar concessions] with a barbecue, selling chicken, ribs and the like. There is another business operating with flat-tops outside of their tent. I cannot even sell hot dogs [from my trailer]. I only want to sell hot dogs, soda, chips and water. I do not want to sell anything else [food or beverage-wise].”

Because Mr Simmons received his licence so late last year, he believed that it would be good for 12 months.

But he received a letter from environmental health on July 20 instructing him to cease selling food immediately, because he did not apply for a renewal for selling prepackaged foods.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that, regardless of when a restaurant or concession licence is given out, it will always expire on March 31 the following year.

After three years of operating the concession, Mr Simmons still does not have electricity. A pole was put in at the bottom of the hill in December last year, but it is still not connected to the top of the hill, where the electricity flows from.

Mr Simmons said he is not bitter towards any other food truck or concession stand owners on the island and wishes all of them nothing but success. He just wanted the standards and rules that are in place to be the same for everyone.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed that to receive a licence, all concession stands must follow the regulations within the Public Health (Food) Regulations 1950, a Ministry of Health spokesman confirmed.

“There is [currently] no regulation which specifically disallows the use of generators for concessions,” the spokesman said. “The need for electricity in a concession will depend upon the nature of the foods being prepared and sold.

“Licences for concessions are granted for the period that the concession is in operation.”

The spokesman also confirmed that a notice was served to Mr Simmons because he was operating without a licence and thus cannot sell any food items.

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Published August 09, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated August 10, 2022 at 11:05 am)

Red tape ties up beach concessionaire’s plans

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